Radical acceptance is based on the Buddhist idea that we make our struggles worse by clinging to them and fighting against them rather than simply accepting them for what they are. For anyone who has a contentious relationship with themselves, radical acceptance is a powerful tool. Here’s how it helped me.
I no longer fear heartbreak. I wasted a lot of time being miserable in relationships because I didn’t want to feel the pain of a breakup. I was so afraid of heartbreak that I chose unhappiness. Radical acceptance allowed me to understand that the temporary pain of a breakup does not prevent me from finding joy with someone else. Spending time and energy trying to avoid it will ironically lead to nothing but frustration and discontent.
I take responsibility for my emotions. It’s easy to become consumed by your emotions and let them dictate your life. But if you take a moment to identify what you’re feeling and why, they’ll hold less power over you. Once you take a step back and recognize that they make sense, you can also look for more productive ways of responding to the circumstances that created them.
I don’t beat myself up for feeling what I’m feeling. While I have learned to take responsibility for my emotions, I have also gotten better at accepting how I’m feeling instead of resisting it. Everyone goes through ups and downs, even when they have an objectively great life with lots of loving friends and family. Reminding yourself that it’s okay to feel low even when you know things are good allows those emotions to run their course without leaving behind bitterness within yourself.
I don’t stress about things I can’t change. I used to get upset whenever something happened that was out of my control. One time I got so frustrated about missing a flight that I missed an opportunity to catch another one just a few hours later. When you accept the reality of things that are out of your control, you can go straight into solution mode. Instead of rendering yourself useless through your emotional response to things, you can start finding ways to make things better.
I’m proactive about the things I can change. Because I’ve grown more comfortable with accepting things that are out of my control, I’ve grown better at identifying things that I actually do have the ability to change. You can change the way you respond to an emotional situation or how you interact with others. You can change your thought patterns and the color of your kitchen and the coffee you drink. When you recognize what is actually in your power to alter, you will take responsibility for it.
I don’t overanalyze my imperfections. One of the reasons self-acceptance is so liberating is that it allows you to redirect your attention outside of yourself. Once you accept who you are, you stop obsessing about yourself and start engaging in more productive thoughts. No one is perfect. That is all you need to know in order to be okay with the things you don’t love about yourself. You don’t have to drown in toxic positivity, singing mantras about how much you adore every part of yourself. It’s okay to simply recognize that you are not perfect, and not hate yourself because of it.
I no longer have regrets. Accepting the past is the only way to make better decisions in the future. You can spend your whole life fretting over the argument you had with a loved one or the job you didn’t take, but consuming yourself with regret will not change what happened. It will only distract you from moving forward and using that bad experience as fuel for creating better ones. I have plenty of things I wish I hadn’t done, but I do not dwell on them anymore. Every experience can teach you something if you let it.
I don’t avoid confrontation. Sometimes you need to have unpleasant conversations with people. Most people avoid such situations and instead try to pretend that unspoken issues don’t exist. But whether it’s a problem you’re having with a colleague or building resentment that you have with a family member, bringing it out into the open is far more likely to bring about some kind of resolution than staying quiet. When you accept that the problem exists, you realize that facing it head-on is the quickest way to find a solution.
I don’t compare myself to others. When you accept who you are, comparing yourself to others seems absurd. You are a unique human being with your own desires, interests, and skills. Choosing to ignore the fact that everyone has their own struggles and insecurities only sets you up for unhappiness and for having an inaccurate view of the world. Even worse, you dehumanize others when you assume they have perfect lives or a perfect body or a blissful family life.
I don’t worry about the future. You can only accept the things that are definite. Usually, this means things that have happened in the past and present. You cannot know what will happen tomorrow, next week, or ten years from now. Worrying about them is pointless. Through radical acceptance, I have learned to accept not only what has happened, but that I cannot predict the future.
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